- Healthcare workers can experience high levels of work-related stress.
- BestColleges interviewed three healthcare workers about their first stressful workday.
- They include a dental assistant, community counselor, and emergency room nurse.
A dental assistant unexpectedly faces life or death. A community counselor is unable to communicate with her patient. A nurse can’t get the help she needs to save a patient.
These are the stories of healthcare professionals dealing with stress at work for the first time. Each experience came with a lesson and, in one case, a word of caution.
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Healthcare professionals deal with incredible stress at work. For many of them, it’s woven into their daily lives.
When The Washington Post surveyed 1,327 frontline healthcare workers in 2021, 55% were experiencing mental and physical exhaustion from chronic workplace stress.
Many future healthcare workers know what they’re getting into when they pursue their degrees. But it’s hard to know how you’ll react until you experience it for the first time — and what you might learn about yourself in the process.
Dental Surgery Scare Leads to Career Clarity
“The next thing we knew … the patient started convulsing.”
Delia Pena-Gay, dental assistant and freelance writer
It was supposed to be a routine dental procedure. Delia Pena-Gay, a dental assistant, never thought it would lead to a life-or-death situation.
She was assisting with All-on-4 implant surgery, replacing a patient’s teeth with dentures. About two hours into the procedure, something went wrong.
“The anesthesiologist noticed that the patient’s blood pressure began dropping,” Pena-Gay said. “The next thing we knew, a loud noise came from the monitor, and the patient started convulsing.”
Pena-Gay’s training took over. She checked on the patient as the anesthesiologist started intubation. He later made a full recovery.
Pena-Gay’s calm reaction surprised her. She was proud of herself for keeping her emotions in control. But she realized something after that intensive dental surgery episode.
“I learned that dental surgeries of that magnitude were not for me,” Pena-Gay said. “I felt confident while everything was happening. That day taught me I could handle more than I thought, but I also didn’t want that pressure.”
Consider reevaluating your career goals after a stressful day. A better option may be waiting for you.
Draining Day Doesn’t Shake Her Resolve
“It was so difficult to find what she wanted.”
Michelle Giordano, community counselor and outreach specialist for Live Another Day
“This type of child most times can be problematic because they can’t express themselves verbally,” Giordano said. “I had to take my time to examine the child and observe what she loves doing, eating, and so on. Believe me, it was so stressful doing all these things.”
Giordano was surprised by how drained she felt after her clinical observation. Stress like that might cause some to doubt their career choice, but not Giordano. Her resolve never wavered.
“I was able to cope with the stress, being that it’s my job that I love doing,” Giordano said. “I can’t look down on my job because of some stress or difficulty in treating a particular patient. I made up my mind to stick to my career choice.”
It’s a good sign if you can cope with work stress and continue to love your job. You’ll be less likely to burn out and keep working your way up the career ladder.
Nurse’s Plea Reaffirms Her Passion for Advocacy
“At that moment, I knew my advocacy would determine this patient’s survival.”
Stephanee Beggs, emergency room nurse and CEO of RNExplained
She was the sickest patient Stephanee Beggs, an emergency room nurse, had ever seen. Complications from a plasma transfusion caused her patient to become hypoxic from insufficient oxygen to the brain.
But the patient arrived in stable condition. Doctors were unaware of the complications now threatening the patient’s life.
“At that moment, I knew my advocacy would determine this patient’s survival,” Beggs said. “I fought with doctors that did not want to come down and lay eyes on the patient, despite my efforts to explain the seriousness of her decline.”
After a few more pleas for help, they finally agreed to intubate the patient. She made a full recovery a week later.
Beggs said the stress didn’t come from her patient’s health decline but rather anger that the healthcare team didn’t take her seriously. But the experience came with a silver lining.
“It was good that it led to anger because it showed how passionate I was about my patient and her health,” Beggs said. “I have never doubted my career choice. Instead, this further affirmed that the emergency department is where I’m meant to be.”
Despite it being an uncomfortable experience, stress can sometimes reaffirm your passion for your career.